Six electric buses and a newly constructed bus maintenance facility will be coming to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality following a multi-million dollar announcement from all levels of government.
On Wednesday, the Government of Canada, Province of Nova Scotia and CBRM said they will contribute combined funding of $54 million to help convert the transit fleet from diesel to electric, and build a new facility to maintain and repair the buses. The municipality aims to eventually accommodate 44 electric buses, but there is no firm timeline for the purchases yet.
During the announcement at Cape Breton University, CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said plans to add new buses marks a stark contrast to the state of transit several years ago.
"It was only a matter of ... four or five years ago that transit was potentially on the chopping block because it was doing so poorly," she said.
The addition of thousands of students at CBU has increased ridership for Transit Cape Breton drastically.
Converting buses from diesel to electric and creating a new facility to house them is part of the municipality's plan to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Moving to an all electric-fleet will not be easy, according to McDougall, because the service has to cover a wide area.
"We have a huge geographic spread to cover which is also a challenge," said McDougall.
The new transit facility will be built and developed in Open Hearth Park, according to McDougall. Technicians will work on diesel buses, while they are still on the road, and also electric buses when the municipality eventually switches over.
McDougall said the municipality still needs to fine tune its planning for electrifying the fleet including the locations of charging stations, how long a bus can last on a charge and how Cape Breton's cooler climate will affect battery life.
She said the municipality needs to make the switch soon because it's getting harder to service diesel buses, and also because the federal government will no longer offer subsidies for new diesel buses.
"Now is the time that things are being produced and now is the time that you know we make that switch," she said. "There are no more diesel buses, and so it is not that we have an opportunity, it's we have to move in this direction."
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